Jaelyn Coates, a May 2017 graduate of Colorado State University’s student affairs in higher education master’s degree program, was recently honored as a member of the first cohort of National Association of Student Personnel Administrators NOW Professionals for her work pertaining to the NASPA core value of inclusion.
‘One of the best decisions’
Student affairs and activism have always been an important part of Coates’ life. Growing up on the East Coast and attending the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill for her bachelor’s degree, Coates was heavily involved on campus her junior and senior years. Her activism work led her to connect with mentors who urged her to consider a career in student affairs in higher education.
Coates was unaware that a career in student affairs, which could include her interests of equity and social justice, even existed. Her mentors encouraged her to apply to the SAHE program at CSU. Once accepted into the program, Coates packed up and moved halfway across the country.
“It’s one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made. I’m excited and passionate about working with underrepresented students,” Coates said. “I really believe higher education should be a space grounded in equity and social justice. Making connections with students struggling to find a space for themselves as they navigate their journey is really important to me.”
A blend of activism and student affairs
Part of CSU’s School of Education, the SAHE program was a good fit for Coates, as it helped her to begin a career that mirrored her respected mentors. Coates enjoyed being engaged in activism during her time as an undergraduate, and felt she gained a unique perspective on the challenges facing college administrators, particularly around transparency.
Coates has enjoyed her time in the SAHE program because it allowed her to combine her interests in activism and taught her the inner workings of a university, so when needed, conversations regarding changes can be better understood by both parties.
Gaining professional experience
As a SAHE student, Coates earned an assistantship with CSU’s Parent and Family Programs and Vice President for Student Affairs office. She’s been involved with both the Black/African American Cultural Center and Fraternity and Sorority Life on campus, participated on panels, is a member of the First-Generation University Initiative committee, and co-coordinates the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program.
Coates gave a Ted Talk at TEDxCSU in 2017, an event she never thought that she’d be involved in, after a push from a friend led her to apply. The experience, she said, was enjoyable and gave her the confidence to feel proud of the ideas she has to share. 2018 has been a busy year for Coates, as she participated in the Global Perspectives course in SAHE and led the charge for the annual Martin Luther King Day community march in Fort Collins.
“I think for me, personally, I appreciated this opportunity,” Coates said. “In social justice movements, women of color are often doing a lot of work but aren’t necessarily in the front giving the message.”
‘We’re doing things now’
Following her recent graduation, Coates accepted a position in the Summer Session office at the University of California, Santa Cruz. There, she’ll be working with first-year, transfer, international, and high school students who come to campus for a summer academy program; she’ll help these students build community and adjust to life on campus while taking classes.
As for being part of the inaugural cohort of NASPA Now Professionals, Coates says she’s honored to have been selected.
“It was really cool to be nominated in the first place,” she said. “What really resonated with the idea of being a NASPA Now Professional was that we’re doing things now — not waiting to do things when we’re more seasoned in the field. To know people are already hearing what I have to say is really cool.”
The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.